Whether it’s every four years during the presidential election or semi-annual local elections, it is our civic duty as members of our society to be educated on the issues and get out to vote! New Era is Colorado’s leading nonprofit organization promoting voter registration among younger generations. Not to mention, they are also one of the most effective youth civic engagement organizations in the country. Their mission is to get Colorado’s youth inspired about making a change for the future. It is important to realize that it is never too early to step into your power because ballots affect each and every person, whether you choose to believe it or not.
OUT FRONT spoke with Nicole Hensel about New Era’s current objectives during this momentous election cycle and their ongoing efforts to involve youth and specific demographics. Hensel is executive director at New Era and diligently directs her passion towards enacting social justice. As she explained it, New Era team members are frequently positioned on college campuses. They really push education on campuses because it is a localized setting where many young people are getting their first interactions participating in democracy.
“Young people are motivated to vote, but they often don’t have access to information in order to cast their ballot confidently. Campaigns often overlook or underestimate young voters; but at New Era, we run year-round civic engagement programs to educate our newest members of our democracy about how, when, and where to vote. And when we do, young people show up to the polls in record numbers, said Nicole Hensel.” Last year, New Era pushed a bill that would station ballot boxes on college campuses and allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary if they turn 18 by the general election.
The Colorado legislature recently passed the bill, titled the Colorado Votes Act. The bill is set to add upwards of 21 new ballot boxes on or around campuses across the state, which will be accessible 24 hours a day. One of the biggest barriers facing students is not a lack of inspiration, but lack of access and information; these new implementations will be a huge stepping stone.
New Era makes significant headway among groups they reach out to which in turn impacts the overall voter turnout throughout Colorado. According to statistics provided by Hensel, her team registered over 43,000 young voters in the 2018 election cycle and have registered an impressive 200,000 voters in Colorado since New Era’s founding in 2006. On average, New Era registrants have a higher percentage of returned ballots for young voters compared to the statewide turnout of the same age pool.
This year, Hensel and the team at New Era have been working harder than ever and expect record turnouts from younger voters. One reason they are so optimistic is because New Era have made it their duty to create a political home not just for Colorado’s youth, but also for women, people of color, and LGBTQ communities. Although voting turnouts have increased exponentially, work is never done to ensure the foundation of our American democracy.